Going out on your own in any business is part leap of faith and part affirmation that you’ve learned all you can from working for someone else. The good news is that public relations is very conducive to self-employment or consultancy, which is one way to start your firm. Once you get that first account and get some cash flow, you may soon be clamoring for additional help.
Contacts and Relationships
Consider your professional contacts and relationships your start-up funding for your firm. You’ve spent years developing relationships with the media, vendors, graphic artists and business professionals, and you will need every one of them. Let everyone know you’re embarking on your own; you’ll likely be surprised at how they will rally around you. Keep fostering and nurturing those relationships. If you move into a professional office space, invite them to an open house reception, or hold one at another location if you start working out of home.
It used to be that the first business items any entrepreneur ordered were business cards and letterhead. Now, your online presence is your calling card; don’t go public with your firm without at least a website. Prospective clients will search for you online, and as you add to your client roster, ask clients for permission to add their logos and a brief description of what you do for them. Adding a blog and promoting it on social media sites will also increase your visibility; you can even start by blogging about your decision to go on your own.
Networking and Speaking
Schedule time in your work days -- and evenings -- for networking. Odds are you are already a member of several professional PR and marketing groups; be sure to contact them and update them with your new firm name and contact information. Join groups that your clients are likely to join, such as the chamber of commerce and other business networking groups. Present yourself as a speaker at luncheons and regular monthly meetings. Just by giving CEOs and other executives a few tips about increasing their visibility, you are establishing yourself as an expert in the PR field. Be sure to prepare a professional bio for your introduction at any speaking event.
Office and Administration
There’s nothing wrong with starting from a home office as long as you’re set up with the necessary office accoutrements, and this includes a quiet place to work. If you have small children or a spouse at home, you may find it difficult to get them to respect your work time, not to mention schooling your brain away from those distractions. Explore office-sharing agreements with professionals in complementary fields, such as graphic or website designers. Some professional office buildings specialize in providing office services on a pay-per-use basis, giving your firm an early polished look -- and a conference room for presentations and client meetings.
Outsource whatever you can to free yourself up to getting new business and servicing clients. Accounting functions are a prime example; once you get behind on tracking your business expenses, it can be a time -- and tax -- nightmare to catch up.
Stick with what you know. If you specialize in healthcare, stick with that. You can always branch off in other areas later if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but it’ll be easier to do once you have some cash flow as a cushion while you permeate a new industry. You will also be in a better position to hire someone with experience in other areas to help you gain a footing in a new industry.